36 hours in London

36 hours in London"
the gherkin

As a northerner, my usual trips to London end up being very much on the beaten track rather than off it. Even though I’ve now mastered tube etiquette, take my pace up a notch as slow walking just isn’t an option and can now keep my face neutral when really I’m thinking ‘HOW MUCH?!’, I definitely don’t know enough about the city to go off piste.

Enter Haydy Squibb, AKA my tour guide. As a gal who’s Essex born and bred and a top London blogger, she knows all the good places that aren’t crazy busy.

Somewhere to have a brew
Our first stop was The Skip Garden which is about 5 minutes walk from Kings Cross Station. It’s definitely a community vibe as a lot of the food they serve is grown in the garden. It’s a sustainable urban garden and everything is built with recycled materials. Thousands of local people have been part of creating the garden, from planting the herbs and wild flowers to working there – even local school kids have been involved. We headed down and enjoyed a cup of tea in the sunshine - £3.25 for two cups of tea is pretty much unheard of in central London too!

the skip garden london kings cross

Somewhere for brunch
It’s nothing new that brunch is my favourite meal ever so Haydy took me to Las Banderas in Soho for a bottomless brunch. Haydy booked our tickets through Fever so we got a brunch dish and bottomless cava, sangria and beers for 90 minutes for £26. The portions were not small, I had the ‘halloumi flashback’ which included some large pieces of breaded halloumi on sourdough and topped with guac, accompanied by scrambled egg and a side salad. Haydy went for the meatballs, which again was a massive portion. Over the 90 minutes, we got through two bottles of cava between us so we absolutely got our money’s worth.

bottomless brunch las banderas soho

Somewhere to be a nerd
As a certified Harry Potter nerd, Haydy took me to the House of Minalima which is filled with merchandise, artwork and props from the films. It feels pretty magical as the rooms are themed and I was oh so tempted to take home a print of the Black family tree (I was sensible and got a postcard to frame!). Also, as I start my new job soon, I felt the need to get an Advanced Potion Making notebook.

house of minalima

Somewhere to stay
I booked a room at the Moxy hotel in Stratford which was one stop out of Liverpool Street on the TFL. For £109 I had a sizeable double room within 3 minutes walking distance of Stratford station (which is also where the Westfield Stratford shopping centre is). My room was quiet, spotlessly clean and the hotel was very Instagram. There were doodles of quotes on the mirrors in the lifts (thing like ‘I’m 100% nicer after 3pm on a Friday), a really cool lobby that was oh so Instagram and they even gave us welcome cocktails. Unlike a lot of central London hotels, my room was a fairly average size – it wasn’t like sleeping in a box. I opted out of a £12 continental breakfast and cured my hangover with a Subway – again, 3 minutes walk from the hotel.

moxy london stratford lobby

Somewhere to play
We headed to Dabber’s bingo on Friday night as Haydy was gifted tickets. The general vibe is a more fun version of your average bingo hall – you drink cocktails, eat food, dance when they call a disco ball (a number where it comes up in the song you’re dancing to) and it gets a little more lairy than your average night at Mecca. Whilst we had a good evening, I think it’s more suited to an after work crowd than it is a night out as a two – we saw quite a few bigger groups on work nights out who looked like they were having a ball. I’m more of a ‘go hard or go home’ type when it comes to nights out so dancing on benches and being showered in coco pops at Bongo’s Bingo is more up my street. That said, given it’s in the financial district of London, I’m definitely not the target demographic for Dabber’s. It’s the kind of place you’d go for a bit of a different night out and it’s a good option for a work do.

dabbers bingo london

Somewhere to eat Italian
Once I’d cured my Saturday hangover with a Subway, I got on the TFL and headed out to Essex which is where Haydy lives. After popping to her flat for a quick flat tour (I’ve seen so much of it on Instagram and in videos she’s sent me that I felt like I knew it really well), we headed to Nino’s, her local Italian. Nino himself was there and he’s a friend of Haydy’s family. I just love really authentic Italian restaurants and this was just that. My friend from school, Bethany, also lives in Essex now so she joined us and it was lovely to have a proper catch up. It’s always weird to mix friends as Bethany is one of my closest friends of 20 years whereas Haydy is a newer friend of the last couple of years but someone I speak to literally every day, but I loved being able to introduce them.

nino's italian gidea park essex

After lunch, it was time for me to head back into central and jump on a train back to Leeds after a whirlwind 36 hours in the capital. I was shattered but though we felt like we did a lot, it was still really chill. The lazy morning in my hotel room and time spent with my nose in a book on the train balanced out bingo and brunching pretty nicely.

the paris escape karen swan

starbucks london kings cross

When was your last trip to London? Do you do something a bit different when you’re there? Let me know in the comments!


  1. It sounds like you had a great weekend! I loved Ninos!

  2. Sounds like you had a fab time! We used to go to London quite a bit, but haven't been for a few years now unfortunately. I love that you've done something different & not the usual touristy things :-) Skip garden sounds fab!! And so does the Harry Potter place. Eeek!


  3. Aw, this sounds like a great visit. It amazing the places you can find off the beaten track as they say! And good you had a tour guide also!lol
    That lasagne looks very yummy! :p..